NBA: Celtics beat Wembanyama, Spurs
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NBA: Celtics beat Wembanyama, Spurs

/ 03:52 PM January 18, 2024

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Victor Wembanyama Boston Celtics NBA San Antonio Spurs

Victor Wembanyama #1 of the San Antonio Spurs blocks a shot from Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 17, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

BOSTON — French phenom Victor Wembanyama called it special to play his first game on the Boston Celtics’ famous parquet court.

What took place on the floor impressed him even more.

“Everybody can hoop on that team. Everyone’s a threat on the court,” the Spurs rookie said after scoring 27 against Boston on Wednesday night when the Celtics beat San Antonio 117-98. “But at the same time, they all know their roles. And they’re all willing to share the ball, from the most important franchise guys to the role players. Everybody is ready to to compete and to make the sacrifices.”

Jayson Tatum scored 24 points and Jaylen Brown returned from a one-game absence to score 21 as Boston improved to 20-0 at home this season. Jrue Holiday scored 22 points and Luke Kornet matched his season high with nine rebounds for the Celtics, won their third game in a row.

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Wembanyama scored 10 points in the first quarter, when San Antonio kept it close. He finished 10-for-19 shooting with five rebounds as the Spurs (7-33), who have the worst record in the Western Conference, lost their third straight game.

“We’re going to lose some more games. We’re not going to win 47 games,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s not important to me, and I’ll make sure it’s not important to them. We all like to win rather than lose. But if they’re not competing at a certain level or executing a certain level. Uh, we’ll be on them just as much as if we were winning. If there’s someone who can’t handle it, they’ll be gone.”

Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, has been on a minutes restriction since rolling his ankle warming up for the Dec. 23 game against Dallas. He was allowed to go for 27 minutes on Wednesday night, up from 24, but he still won’t play both nights of a back-to-back.

The Spurs have one of those coming up, and Wembanyama said he would sit out Friday night’s game against Charlotte and play on Saturday night against Washington. That means he will match up against former French teammate and Wizards forward Bilal Coulibaly.

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“I wish I could play both. But of course I’m excited to play against Bilal,” Wembanyama said. “I was trying to be detached from this and just say, ‘I’ll trust the coaching staff, what they want me to do.’ But of course, I’m happy to play Bilal.

“It’s the only person that I’ve seen since I’m a kid, like a little kid. And at the time, it was just dreams and something crazy, but we happened to both make it here, and I’m justso proud of him. And it is going to feel weird for sure.”

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Wembanyama helped San Antonio keep it close early, with the Spurs trailing by three points in the final minute. San Antonio was down just 32-29 early in the second before the Celtics scored eight in a row and 18 of the next 22 points.

Another 8-0 run at the end of the half made it 70-45 Boston at the break. The Celtics won the earlier meeting this season by 33 on New Year’s Eve. The Spurs outscored Boston 53-47 in the second half, but Popovich conceded it was never close.

“We came out on fire, we couldn’t make shots, and then everybody puts their heads down,” he said. “And then your pace goes away, your defense (stinks). They’re young. That happens.”

Brown returned after sitting out Boston’s 105-96 victory over the Raptors on Monday with a hyperextended right knee. The Celtics were without Kristaps Porzingis (right knee inflammation) and Derrick White (left ankle sprain).

NEXT SCHEDULE

Spurs: Visit Charlotte on Friday night.

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Celtics: Host Denver on Friday night.

TAGS: Boston Celtics, NBA

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